My wife and I were surfing through various tv viewing options a few weeks ago. We ran across the first season of the NBC series Grimm and started watching. I don’t have confidence in major networks being able to do television well these days. I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of this show. It’s not perfect, but it was better than expected.
It’s an interesting entertainment experience to watch an entire tv series over a period of weeks instead of years. It’s obviously easier to follow various threads of the long dramatic arcs. Plus, cliffhangers get resolved when you want. You don’t have all summer to simmer in wonder.
Grimm is billed as a fusion of urban fantasy and police procedural. The separate elements are not original television, but how the writing braintrust handles the blend is fairly (but not totally) unique.
There is an obvious nod to the X-Files: weird things on the fringe of human legends come to life in the Oregon city of Portland. It’s a curious thing that the lead character, Nick Burkhardt, just happens to be in the middle of a rash of extraordinarily gruesome crimes committed by human/fantasy chimeras. At least other characters notice it. After the illness and death of his aunt, Nick comes into his own with a family ability to be able to see behind the human disguises of monsters and other fantastic persons.
In a way, it’s like the Jessica Fletcher syndrome: an innocent mystery writer just happens to be involved in mystery after mystery in her small town. Grimm is not as bad–Nick is a police detective, so he has a logical “in” when weird crimes happen. Portland is a nice-sized city. So lots of grim things happen there, I’m sure. At least Fox Mulder and Dana Scully had a whole nation of strange events to investigate. But if Detective Burkhardt was a a federal agent, I suppose that would be too much of a copycat thing.
My wife and I are partway into season 2 as of this writing. The first thirty episodes have done well to introduce a supporting cast who help Nick in his professional life, and in his “secret identity” as a grimm. (There’s something of Buffy in this: the gradual assemblage of people who come to know what he does and who assist him in his police or fantasy work–often those roles overlap.) The supporting characters are a diverse lot. Some provide a bit of comic relief, which I judge to be about 10% of an otherwise dark narrative. That bit is well done. Not comic book like too many SyFy network series. Some of these friends are more or less innocent, but are targets of threats because of Nick’s activities, so there is a good bit of menace. Nick is quite effective as a fighter. (The hand-to-hand stuff can get as brutal as old-school tv detective shows like Mannix.) So the viewer doesn’t fear so much for the title character, but for his girlfriend, his police partner, or his allies in the fantasy world.
I can recommend this program. I think five seasons are complete, if I can believe what Amazon Prime puts up on my screen. A sixth, shortened, and final season of 13 episodes is due in four months. I might catch up on all hundred-some episodes by then.
I was surprised to find I enjoy this show. Usually I prefer hard science fiction to fantasy. But through the first thirty installments, I would give this effort a solid B to B-plus.